I’m back…..

Well I’m back.  It’s been a while.  Nearly a year in fact.

I will now use the old cliche that ‘life got in the way’ but illness and time has a way of not playing fair… and so here I am.  I hope to be able to add reasonably regular content this time around.  I will also attempt some half decent stories every now and again.

I have my good friend Jo to thank for bringing me back from the writing dead.  She has started her own blog and I don’t want to be outdone.  So thank you Jo.  I hope to be critiquing your blazing good foray into legendary writing status in the near future.

For the record it has been a nearly interesting 12 months in parts.  I’m still soldiering on with my MT work and making a half-decent attempt at pegging doctors’ and their linguistic idiosyncrasies.  I fear I will never reach the great heights of MT elitism but I’m earning a regular income and that has got to account for something.  I’m not aspiring to great levels, simply because I would like to have a life and health restrictions limit me to part-time MT semi elitism only.

In the meantime I will be finding at least one or two days per week to jot down my thoughts and process the flickerings of literary creative goop bouncing around between my ears.

Stay tuned….

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MT trenches revisited, again.

Another week in the MT trenches is now over and done with and I can hear the collective sigh of relief from various family members as I toss my leg over the armrest of my favourite TV-viewing armchair.escape

It was a rabid week of ranting, swearing, head-banging and turning blue as I threw a few tanties over a succession of misdirected English-second-language medical experts trying to twist an English phrase or two to suit themselves and the diagnosis at hand.

I have seen more new, unexplained and non-existent medical materialisations in the last 5 days than in my 10 years in the medical industry and there were times when I had to restrain myself from adding a few creative phrases of my own to the comments box regarding the sufferings of the end user – me – in this instance.

One mumbling, stumbling so-called expert got so fed up with himself, he shouted the ‘f’ word into the microphone, and my ear, four times in quick succession as he tried to reformat one sentence three times and then gave up, berating himself for his stupidity.  On the entertain-o-meter,  however, I did give him an 11 out of 10, despite his shortcomings, with a 100% rating for inspired personality insight.

My ire, unfortunately, increased towards the end of that same day after tapping away furiously at my keyboard for what had been a marathon episode of stuttering only to have the transcribee stop in mid-stutter to take a phone call of even more epic proportions without stopping the recording.  It was just as well I was not being paid by the minute and it was also just as well I was discreet, as the content of the now stutter-free conversation was worthy of a pornographic link of it’s own on another blog.

I could go into the epic meanderings of a recent Scottish addition and the tight-fisted abbreviator who won’t pay for any more than what is said, even if it doesn’t make sense – but I won’t.  I will say, however, I am looking forward to next week when my favourite long-winded, previously frustrating, yet understandable regulars come back from their summer breaks.

I’m back

medtran1Well, I’m back, which is an epic statement in itself.

I have had a mammoth six months of illness and finding my feet in my new career as an MT (medical transcriptionist) which has been no mean feat.

I am, at this point in time, pleased to say that I have managed to navigate the MT intern minefield and been promoted to a DTC MT. An impressive title which simply means that I am a ‘direct-to-client medical transcriptionist. To say the last six months hasn’t been easy would be an understatement but I think I’m getting the hang of it and I am managing to keep my head above water while dog paddling furiously beneath its depths.

The pay is not fabulous at the moment as it is entirely productivity based and I’m not the fastest swimmer in these parts.  I am getting better though, no doubt bolstered along by my recent acquisition of a new built-to-specification computer and a killer set of Bose noise-cancelling headphones.  My productivity has increased markedly as I can now actually hear the mumblers and decipher the stutterers. My Bose are not miracle workers, however, so I still can’t translate an indecipherable English-Second-Language dictator if they are not speaking an understood version of the Queen’s English.  I am an MT, not a magician.

I have a multitude of accounts, account specifics and different doctors that I transcribe for.  No two days are alike and some days are better than others.  I have given some of my doctors nicknames specific to the type of voice they have, for example, Dr Dreamy, who is an absolute dream to transcribe. I can only imagine his charming good looks and his amicable personality. Yet another I call Mr Chocolate, whose voice is good enough to eat and probably should be x-rated. Dr Speed-dial never stops to take a breath and I suspect that he may have a somewhat debilitating caffeine habit, while Dr Lead-foot prefers to dictate while negotiating seemingly challenging traffic conditions five days per week.

Some of these dictators I find amusing but others can be a little stressful at times.  I have been introduced to all kinds of new English language alternatives and new medical terminology by the English-Second-Language dictators. It is up to me to wade through what is ‘acceptable’ grammar and what is not and present the closest possible variant of what the dictator is trying to say.

I have to be a grammar-efficient talented typist who knows a thing or two about computers, computer programs, IT troubleshooting with a smattering of medical know-how.  It’s a tall order but it is not without it’s perks. I get to work from home, I can wear what I want, I can set my own hours and my commuting costs and angst are non-existent.

I have to be diligent and committed to setting my own hours and sticking to them. I have to clock in and clock out, just like everybody else in the real world outside of these four walls. My many years of university study have, fortunately, instilled some admirable, if not slightly self-absorbed working habits.

Right now I’m working to improve my speed and efficiency but I’m doing okay.  I’d have to say at this point, however, if it wasn’t for my husband and his well-paid job, we might be eating baked beans and living in a tent. I’m pretty proud of myself though. It was a leap of faith to take when I gave up work to take a year off to do the Ozetrainer course to get me started on this new career path as an MT. In the beginning I wasn’t completely convinced that I would make it through the course, let alone actually be working in the field and earning money. I was at a point in my life where it just wasn’t possible for me to continue what I was doing without it impacting on my health. Working from home was the best option for me and I plan to take it to the next level and see where I end up.

Stay tuned.

I passed, thank god

Well the results are in.

After a year of MT training hell, I have received the call.

I passed…with honours.

How good is that?

I’m still coming to grips with the reality of the situation. No more slogging it out on the report production line of garbled, undecipherable and maddening transcriptionist hell. I’ve made it through and I’m on to the next stage.

At this point I’d like to thank my long suffering husband for putting up with my rants, and believing in me when I thought I really sucked. I’d also like to thank my dogs for helping me through my finals. The doggy do-do on my grammar notes and the pee on my open Dorland’s medical dictionary during the final did nothing to lower my stress levels at the time, but it did prepare me for any situation that may occur  in my future career as an MT.

I’ve been sent an application email from an MT company already. I plan to update my resume, fill out the forms and prepare for yet another examination to get into a traineeship.

Right now however, and for the next few days, I plan to live my  life as a free woman. I’m going to smell the roses, taste the chocolate and open that sweet red I’ve had stashed under the back bed for months. My husband will be home from sea in the next few days, which makes the occasion even sweeter.

I’ve been through this before, or something similar, when I graduated from university 6 years ago. It was the same sensation of euphoria, starting somewhere in my abdomen and shooting straight through the top of my head. It’s like being stoned…or so I’ve been told anyway.

I often wonder why I keep on doing this to myself though. Is the end result worth all the madness, sleepless nights, anxiety and stress? I think only time will tell. Everything I have done in my life so far has led me to this point. The objective of this last endeavour was to earn a living from home. This, in my way of thinking, would be the ultimate opportunity – considering that I live on an island and local job prospects are quite low despite my qualifications.

The next few months will be a testament to my years of experience and my recent training. My knowledge of current technology and a lot of patience should see me through the unexpected glitches that are sure to pop up every now and again. If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that technology is never a smooth road.

I can’t wait to start and earn a living again. I’m starting at the bottom, but hopefully I will move up the ranks and become a ‘seasoned’ MT that others can rely on.

I’m also planning another project for next year. I’m building a new computer. I’m hoping for the best but I’m expecting the unexpected, and another steep learning curve.

‘Learning never exhausts the mind’  Leonardo da Vinci.

grammar slammer

I’ve been doing a bit of bedtime reading the last few nights on grammar. Riveting stuff, grammar. Depending on how you look at it.

I thought that I was half decent at grammar, since this was what I had excelled at during high school and my university essays. According to this course that I am embarking upon in medical transcription, however, I fall way short of the literary mark. I am failing woefully in my application of commas, present and past tense usage, sentence structure, and document layout.

Admittedly, the average medical document is a different beast, and sometimes it can have rules and regulations all of its own above and beyond the intricacies of the grammatical code. Basically I need to keep my wits about me, which can be difficult when I am also trying to concentrate on a multitude of dictators whose idea of communication is mumbling, speed reading, yawning, chewing and waffling. I realise that the dictator is not there for my convenience, and has probably dictated the same stuff a hundred times before, so they know what they are saying and they are over it. But for pity’s sake, do they have to make it even more difficult to turn out a grammatically correct document that also adheres to what they are trying to spit out when they themselves aren’t very good at observing the rules of grammar?

Most of us have a basic understanding of grammar, or the English grammar. The ESL (English second language) dictators are a different animal, so let’s not go there. The most fundamental rule of grammar is good sentence structure. A basic sentence is composed of at least one independent clause. A clause is composed of a minimum of a subject and a predicate. The subject of a clause is an entity such as a person, place, object. The predicate in the sentence gives information about the subject.

Put simply in the sentence ‘the lion roared’, the lion is the subject, and ‘roared’, which is a verb – is the predicate describing what the lion is doing. The ‘lion’ is also the noun. Simple stuff for sure, but it is much more complicated than that once  you start adding extras, such as adverbs, adjectives, and pronouns. You can join two independent clauses together to make sense with a comma. You can join them together using a conjunction. You can divide two clauses that are related to each other by a semicolon and a transitional phrase.

I could go on, but I won’t. I have a basic understanding of the above, which is why I have taken to reading grammar books in my leisure time when I could be watching Star Trek. And for my money, there would be few doctors that would be interested in reading up on the fundamentals of good grammar on their days off. So why do I bother?

Because I’m into self-inflicted pain and suffering I guess. And somebody has to make the doctors look good on paper, that’s for sure.

I don’t need to be a grammatical genius to become a good MT, but I need to know more than what I do now, and it needs to be automatic. I guess automation comes with practice, but when there are so many rules to remember, how can you remember them all? And who makes this stuff up?

My guess is that we made it up as we went along. Language as it is didn’t just spring up in its present form in one day. It’s taken many thousands of years to reach this point, and each culture and language have different ways that they approach their rules of grammar.

The Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert are said to be the oldest living race of human beings on the planet, and it would stand to reason that their language, a complex combination of a wide variety of clicks and guttural sounds mixed with common vowels and consonants, would be the oldest language in the world.

Moving forward in time a little, to the Middle Ages in fact, ‘grammar’ basically meant the study of Latin. Please don’t ask me how we got from the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert to the ancient Romans. It’s a long story, and not one that  I’m qualified to tell. Knowing Latin was apparently associated with being an educated person, a ‘learned’ person, and the use of grammar, as it were, increased in popularity and gained prestige.

I guess it just snowballed from there, like the Bible in some ways, handed down and added to over generations. Improved, depleted, increased, modified, and ultimately made more difficult for  the layman and Joe Blow in the street.

I get by. I can write a half decent letter and waffle a good essay with the best of them. But I’m struggling with the labyrinth of endless rules, regulations, and exceptions to those rules and regulations, coupled with the wonderfully inventive medical fraternity, who have been known to ‘invent’ new words to suit their purposes.

I don’t expect that language will sit still either. Over the next few millenia, if we haven’t blown ourselves into kingdom come, language as it is right now may well be an ancient form of complex and difficult communication that is no longer used, as it is too time consuming and tedious. We may well rely on telepathy, combined with simplified visual and auditory languages such as clicks and guttural sounds.

We can only hope.

MT trenches

Well I’m still hard at it banging away on the keyboard and listening to the warblings of some supposed medical professionals that could’ve also taken an elective at university to improve their grammar somewhat, judging by what I’ve been subjected to these last few months.

Yes, I’m still raving about the MT training course that I have embarked upon in an attempt  to join the ranks of other MTs world-wide that work from the luxury their own homes. At some level I must be committed to my own suffering, because this stuff has been harder than any university study that I have completed in the past.

Having said that, I’m hoping that my time and training in the MT trenches is going to improve my skills to the point that employment from the home is a probability rather than the vague possibility it was a year ago when I started to look at giving the whole ‘commuting in the rat race’ thing the big flick.

The training consists of quite a few modules, half theory and the other half practical. I’m nearing the last module of the course now, the dreaded last practicum module, or ACC – Advanced Acute Care – to the layman. I’m ten months into the course, with anther two months to go to complete this last module and sit the final examination.

Sadly, I fear it isn’t going to be enough time.

I’m a stickler for timetables and order. I’ve run offices in the past and had to develop a fair amount of discipline while I was studying as well to prioritise my time, and mud tends to stick, so to speak. Time management was paramount then, and still is now, but no matter how I look at it, I can work my butt off for the next couple of months and get the last module finished, but still not leave myself enough time to study for, and sit, the final examination.

A dilemma? A disaster? It could be. But perhaps not. If I pay just a little extra money I can buy myself some extra time to complete my finals with ease.

I sure hope that I make enough money when I get out of here to pay for the course and all the extras along the way.

I’ve been assured that there is plenty of work, so you can expect in future posts to hear all about my progress, although I will be bound by the privacy rules and regulations, and names, dates, and experiences will be changed to protect the innocent, namely myself, from litigation.

revisiting the MT wannabee

Well, I’ve been back into it again today. Another day in the MT-in-training trenches and I’m up to my armpits in grammar corrections, medical misspellings, bad verb tense matchings, and muffled mumblings.

I’ve managed to do another ‘end of block’ test and begin another block. It never ends. And its getting harder. I’m thinking about avoiding hospital scenarios altogether and just going for specialist consultation dictation instead. That is, of course, if I get the choice. I didn’t realise that there were so many different names for forceps, sutures, gauze, scissors, cauterizers, dressings, and clamps. And they are apparently only just getting started. Just when you learn a medical word for something, you realise that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Medical terminology is full of names, numbers, terms, groups, listings, and things that are named after the person that invented the object or the procedure. I won’t name any names here, but some are a little more than eccentric in their undertaking.

I have learned a few interesting words during this course, but the standout for this week would be ‘Pfannenstiel’, which put simply is ‘a surgical incision that allows access to the abdomen.’ Enough said. Or too much in this case.

There is a medical name for almost any bodily function that you can think of. Epistaxis is a nosebleed. Esotropia means ‘cross-eyed.’ Hyperhidrosis means ‘excessive sweating.’ Eructation means ‘burping.’ If you could commit enough of these to memory it would make for an interesting conversation around the dinner table, and maybe even get rid of a few unwanted guests.

It is mind boggling really, the amount of thought and effort that has gone into the medical language. Some of the reasons that the layman finds it so bewildering is the fact that medical terminology has an extensive history in the Latin and Greek languages. It was created to identify the various anatomical structures, treatments, equipment, procedures, and the like. The layman, ie myself, is left dazed and confused in its wake.

I’m feeling mildly relieved that I didn’t invest in that expensive French course that I was thinking of taking up a couple of years ago, because it would have done me little good right now. By the time this is over I’m hoping to have moved on from my ‘beginner medical Latin’ status and can recognise a duodenum from a sternum, hypothysis from hypothesis, claustrum from colostrum, and cystitome from cystotome – all of which, and more, could get me into trouble if I don’t know the difference.

Hippocrates might well be the ‘father of medicine,’ but he has helped create a ‘mother’ of a medical language that is the epitome of ‘what the?’